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The Radical Potter

The Life and Times of Josiah Wedgwood

Tristram Hunt

Metropolitan Books

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ISBN10: 125012834X
ISBN13: 9781250128348


352 Pages



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Wedgwood pottery, such as the celebrated blue of Jasperware, is famous worldwide. Jane Austen bought it, and wrote of it in her novels; Empress Catherine II of Russia ordered hundreds of pieces for her palace; British diplomats hauled it with them on their first-ever mission to Peking, audaciously planning to impress China with their china. But the life of Josiah Wedgwood is far richer than just his accomplishments in ceramics. He was a leader of the Industrial Revolution, a pioneering businessman, a tireless scientific experimenter, a cultural tastemaker, and an ardent abolitionist. And he did it all in the face of chronic disability and relentless pain: a childhood bout with smallpox eventually led to the amputation of his right leg.

As acclaimed historian Tristram Hunt puts it in this lively, vivid biography, Wedgwood was the Steve Jobs of the eighteenth century: a difficult, brilliant, creative entrepreneur whose personal drive and extraordinary gifts changed the way we work and live. Drawing on a rich array of letters, journals, and historical documents, The Radical Potter brings us the story of a singular man, his dazzling contributions to design and innovation, and his remarkable global impact.


Praise for The Radical Potter

“This is a remarkable and impassioned book. Josiah Wedgwood innovated across boundaries of technology and art and taste, commerce and scientific enquiry, and Tristram Hunt makes the powerful case for rediscovering his humane entrepreneurial spirit. The Radical Potter brings Wedgwood’s protean energy alive for a new generation and I loved it.”—Edmund de Waal, author of The Hare with Amber Eyes

“Hunt’s sympathetic, engaged and finely written biography makes it clear that Wedgwood was a one-off, and a genius.”—The Spectator (UK)

“Brisk and highly readable . . . A fine new biography.”The Times (UK)

“Engrossing . . . Hunt is uniquely fitted to write this book.”—The Sunday Times (UK)

“A captivating portrait of a remarkably innovative man.”Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt


On 26 September 1792 George Macartney, Earl Macartney of Dervock in the county of Antrim, set sail from Portsmouth aboard the sixty-four-gun HMS Lion, accompanied by a full-rigged East Indiaman Hindostan...

About the author

Tristram Hunt

Tristram Hunt is the director of the Victoria & Albert Museum and one of Britain’s best-known historians. His previous books, which include Cities of Empire: The British Colonies and the Creation of the Urban World and Marx’s General: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels, have been published in more than a dozen languages. Until taking on the leadership of the V&A, he served as Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent, the home of Wedgwood’s potteries. A senior lecturer in British history at Queen Mary University of London, he appears regularly on BBC radio and television.

Tom Whittaker

Tristram Hunt

Official Links

Read Author Bio at London Speaker Bureau

Read the author in The Guardian